Friday September 28, 2007
Car Sighting: Driving south on I-5 from Seattle yesterday - adrift in a sea of nondescript SUVs and ToyoHyundKia sedans, I spotted a 1959 Oldsmobile convertible three lanes over. This big beauty had the usual white-colored fin/rocket accent color over an unusual not-quite-salmon, not-quite red, slightly metallic or pearlescent body.
Big whitewalls, white fabric top and full wheel covers, natch. Cruising carefully and majestically in the far right lane, piloted by a sixty-something. Wow! (This was probably his Someday Dream Car when he was in high school.)
Even though Olds, Caddy, Pontiac, Buick and Chevy shared the same basic body in '59, the cars were quite distinctive. You would never mistake a new Oldsmobile for a Buick or Pontiac. Or anything else.
Alas, those days are gone. And, so is Oldsmobile.
Corporate Eco-Looniness: Greg Gutfeld writes: "To become more ecofriendly, Staples is going green, meaning they'll be recycling more, preserving resources, and, get this: installing showers, as an incentive to get employees to cycle to work."
"This makes me vomit. First, how can Staples go green? You're called Staples. You sell paper. Companies go green only to make themselves look better - because none of this crap has any real impact. But installing showers so folks can bike to work? Crap. Your fellow employees do not need to see you in fluorescent Lycra bicycle shorts with butt pads."
In addition to tree-assassinating paper, Staples sells paperclips. Does anyone need more paperclips? I still have some from 1952, they have 'I Like Ike' machine-stamped in very tiny type.
Lame Joke Of The Day: What did one hat say to the other hat? "You stay here. I'll go on a head."
Wednesday September 26, 2007
Recorded For Posterity: Here are photos of my Jaguar's odometer at 99,999 and 100,000 miles:
Strike! The United Auto Workers launched a national strike Monday against General Motors after 10 days of marathon bargaining failed to produce a new labor pact for the automaker's 73,000 hourly U.S. workers. The UAW hasn't staged a national strike against the General since the 1970s. This is the first GM strike since the UAW struck the GM's Flint operation in 1998.
Thousands of words have already been written but I'll simply add this: When I heard the news, I pictured three very sick, elderly men swimming naked in Lake Michigan during a January blizzard. A prescription for demise. The frail old men are, of course, the UAW, GM and the State of Michigan.
After the blizzard ... errr ... strike is over, it may be time to phone the coroner.
Update: Strike's over but the three old men still appear unwell. Shivering UAW looks like death warmed-over. Longer-term effects? Only time will tell.
"You're In Good Hands" ... With Whom? Jeremy Clarkson road tested a Volvo product and provided a one-sentence explanation as to why I'm not setting foot in a Jaguar showroom: "Ford, as we know, is thinking of selling Volvo, and I don't know about you, but I wouldn't pay nearly £36,000 to a car company if I didn't know who was going to be running it next week."
Applies to Land Rover too, although I'm not at all interested in that brand.
Who's Afraid Of The Little Bad Wolf? Here's a car quote from the past, made in July 1959 by an unidentified Lincoln Mercury dealer:
"And, boy, does Lincoln Mercury seem to be scared of the small cars coming next year. From all I can see, everybody in the medium-priced line is scared as hell."
Goodness, Gracious ... Great Balls Of Fire! A motorbike rider was knocked unconscious when lightning struck his penis during a roadside pee break. Ante Djindjic, 29, escaped relatively unscathed from the incident, suffering only light burns to his chest and arms. For better or worse - depending on your viewpoint, the doctors said that there would be no lasting effects.
Poor Data: We're often admonished to "do something" for America's Poor.
Here are some facts about persons defined as "poor" by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports ... (more >>>)
On A Related Subject ... don't get me started on the "homeless". The only time I want to experience tramps is when they're playing 'Disco Inferno.'
Thought For Today: The quickest way to double your money is to fold it in half and put it back in your pocket.
Monday September 24, 2007
Car Logic: a = b; b = c; therefore, a = c. Buick has proclaimed its marketing strategy to be "the Lexus of General Motors." Hyundai ads claim that they are an "alternative to Lexus."
So ... does Buick now equal Hyundai?
Car Quote From The Past ... is from the Automobile Manufacturers Association, which officially imposed a member ban on racing activities in June, 1957:
A bunch of spoilsports and weenies. The ban was later lifted.
The Truth About Jena ... could only be written by a black reporter because a white author would have immediately been denounced as 'racist'. Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star pens a most informative article, filled with facts and background I hadn't heard from the various television news outlets.
It's about Mychal Bell, the star of the 2006 Jena High School football team, the teenage boy who has sat in jail since December for his role in a six-on-one beatdown of a fellow student. Justin Barker, the white victim, was cold-cocked from behind, knocked unconscious and stomped by six black athletes. Luckily, he sustained no life-threatening injuries and was released from the hospital three hours after the attack.
Here are some excerpts:
Much has been written about Bell's trial, the six-person all-white Louisiana jury that convicted him of aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery and the clueless public defender who called no witnesses and offered no defense. It is rarely mentioned that no black people responded to the jury summonses and that Bell's public defender was black.
Jesse Jackson compared (last) Thursday's rallies in Jena to the protests and marches that used to take place in cities like Selma, Alabama in the 1960s. Al Sharpton claimed Thursday's peaceful demonstrations were to highlight racial inequities in the criminal justice system.
Jesse and Al, as they're prone to do, served a kernel of truth stacked on a mountain of lies.
It's almost never mentioned that Bell's absentee father returned from Dallas and re-entered his son's life only after Bell faced attempted-murder charges. At a bond hearing in August, Bell's father and a parade of local ministers promised a judge that they would supervise Bell if he was released from prison. Where were the promises and supervision before any of this?
It's rarely mentioned that Bell was already on probation for assault when he was accused of participating in Barker's attack. And it's never mentioned that white people in the "racist" town of Jena provided Bell support and protected his football career long before Jesse, Al, Bell's father and all the others took a sincere interest in Mychal Bell.
Celebrity Cult: Roger Simon notes that "it's very unfair, of course, to compare Dan Rather to O.J. Simpson - Simpson killed people - but both reemerged at roughly the same time and represent extraordinary examples of a kind of sociopathic behavior created in part by our culture of celebrity. ... We have lived for some time in a society in which stardom seems to motivate people to lose contact with reality. The more attention they get - the crazier that get. And if they feel that attention diminishing, they act out to regain it."
Dan Rather is a loony, partisan hack who was caught red-handed trying to sway a U.S. presidential election. He and cohort, Mary Mapes, should count their lucky stars that they're not in prison for federal election tampering. If George Bush was really the Evil Vindictive Führer the Left portrays him to be, he would have locked that pair up and thrown away the key. Or had 'em gassed. (If Bush was really Hitler, he would have been invited to speak at Columbia.)
Jim Treacher watched Dan on Larry King and, as he viewed the two geezers, realized that the show had "quite possibly the lowest brain cell-to-wrinkle ratio in the history of television."
John Podhoretz proclaimed ol' Gunga Dan to be "two Kenneths short of a frequency."
Speaking of celebrity madness, don't get me started on Britney. Or Phil Spector. Or the Brady girls: "Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!" indeed. Did Alice know? Or Rosie?
Rest In Quiet: Marcel Marceau, famous mime, has died at age 84.
He fought for the French resistance against the invading Nazi army during World War II. Marceau was only person to speak in Mel Brooks' 1976 flick, 'Silent Movie': "No!"
His death gives a whole new meaning to that favorite mime routine: Man in a Box.
Joke Of The Day is from Henny Youngman:
Nurse: "Doctor, the man you just gave a clean bill of health to dropped dead right as he was leaving the office."
Doctor: "Quick! Turn him around, make it look like he was walking in."
Friday September 21, 2007
Why Detroit Is In Trouble: 'Import intenders' is the term used for car buyers who don't even consider domestic vehicles when planning their next purchase. And according to J.D. Power, they now make up 54% of car buyers. Detroit has lost over half of its U.S. market.
I'm not surprised. As I wrote in my article, The Perfect Storm, "the sons and daughters of those angry '70s and '80s [domestic car] buyers continue to remember Pop's Bad Experience (from many dinner table rants) and buy Asian."
Fifty Years Ago: Legendary race driver Marquis de Portago (aka - Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton) died in 1957 while driving a Ferrari in the Mille Miglia.
In an interview with Ken Purdy, he said, "Automobiles bore me, I know next to nothing about them and I care less. I have no sentimental attachment for a car; I can hardly tell one from another."
If Portago was alive today, maybe he'd be driving in NASCAR.
Things To Come: Jeremy Clarkson predicts the future, stating that: "you won't be driving round in a hybrid, such as the Toyota Prius. These use just as much fuel as normal cars and are designed only to assuage the guilt of people whose opinions come from a man so hopeless he couldn't even beat George Bush to the White House. You will not have an electric car either. ... They. Do. Not. Work. They run out of juice whenever it's raining, or dry, or windy. And to charge them up again you have to plug them into a socket that is fed by ... a power station. Yippee."
History Lesson: California became a state in 1850. It "had no electricity. The State had no money. Almost everyone spoke Spanish. There were gunfights in the streets. Basically, it was just like California today, except the women had real tits and the men didn't hold hands." (hat tip - Kathy Shaidle)
Refusal To Condemn: Yesterday, the Senate voted to condemn the despicable MoveOn ad which appeared recently in the New York Times. The final vote was 72-25 (in favor of condemnation), with three not voting.
Barack Obama and Joseph Biden did not vote; Hillary Clinton voted against condemning MoveOn.
Here are some of the other usual suspects who refused to condemn the ad: Barbara 'No Troops For You' Boxer (D-CA), Robert Klansman' Byrd (D-WV), Chris 'Sandwich' Dodd (D-CT), Tom 'Mister Bitter' Harkin (D-IA), Teddy 'Admiral Oldsmobile' Kennedy (D-MA), John 'Magic Hat' Kerry (D-MA), Carl 'Bad Combover' Levin (D-MI), Patty 'Bin Laden's Not Such A Bad Guy' Murray (D-WA), Harry 'War Is Lost' Reid (D-NV) and Ron 'Whiner' Wyden (D-OR). No surprises here.
True Confessions: A retired Italian wine maker went to the village church to make a confession for the first time in many decades.
When the priest slid open the panel in the confessional, the man said, "Father, during World War II, a beautiful woman knocked on my door and asked me to hide her from the enemy. I hid her in my attic."
The priest replied, "That was a wonderful thing you did, my son! You have no need to confess it."
"It's worse than that, Father," he continued. "She quickly started to repay me with sexual favors."
"People in wartime sometimes act in ways they wouldn't under normal conditions. If you are truly sorry for your actions, you are forgiven."
"Thank you, Father. That's a great load off my mind. May I ask a question?"
"What, my son?"
"Should I tell her the war is over?"
Thought For Today: When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
Wednesday September 19, 2007
Back To The Past: According to The Onion, Ford is reintroducing the Model T: "Today's drivers want to get in touch with the experience of sitting behind the wheel of a finely crafted, planetary-gear vehicle with a manual starting crank," said Ford's president and CEO Alan Mulally, who expects the first line of Model Ts to be available for sale by mid-December and safe for driving as soon as it is neither snowing nor raining. "We're getting back to the basics, bringing the quality and elegance of 1908 into the 21st century. We want to show the country why, at one point, every single car driven in America was a Ford."
"Frankly, I think we've gotten so concerned with adding frills like GPS navigational systems, seat belts, and exhaust pipes that we've forgotten what really matters: open-air bench seating," Mulally said. "We promise that each Model T that comes off the line will last much, much longer than today's cars. Face it, we just don't make them like we used to."
Sticker price is expected to be $950.
Real World Betterness: "Building a better car and assuming people will buy it doesn't work," GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner whined to reporters at last week's Frankfurt Auto Show.
Well, Rick, we won't know that until you actually ... ummmm ... build better cars. As most readers know, we have a Toyota Avalon. In 2.5 years of ownership and 23,000 miles, it has not had a single problem. Not one - despite the oft-heard refrain on forums that Toyota's quality is slipping. No creaks, no squeaks either.
In the last 12 months, I've rented two GM cars. Both couldn't hold a candle to our Avalon in quality. (Specifics can be found in my postings of 2/1/07 and 11/3/06.)
The Decline Of American Quality ... is apparent everywhere, even in the Bank Robbery Biz. For example: "A robber passed a note to a teller in a California bank stating that he had a weapon and demanding money. The teller gave the thief the money and the miscreant promptly fled. It was not until the police arrived and gathered the available evidence, in this case, the hold up note, that the investigators realized that the note was, in fact, a personal check with the robber's name printed on the front."
This may be one of the first times that, prior to an arrest, the police not only had a suspect's full address, including ZIP code but his middle initial as well.
The Juice Is In A Jam: Sadly, O.J. has now provided Nancy Grace with a reason to live. And, while I despise the whole 'all O.J. all the time' thing on television (Fox News seems to be the worst offender), I must admit that I would pay to see a caged Death Match between Gloria Allred and Nancy.
AppleTech: Apple Computer announced today that it has developed a computer chip that can store and play music in women's breast implants.
The iBoob will cost between $499 and $599.
This is considered to be a major breakthrough because women are always complaining about men just staring at their breasts and not listening to them. (hat tip - Jerry Horn)
Burned To A Crisp: Jonah Goldberg says that actor James Brolin (aka - Mr. Barbra Streisand) "lacks the intellectual candle power to make toast."
He was good in Pee Wee's Great Adventure, though.
Still Wondering: Is Stewie Griffin related to the Travelocity gnome?
Question Of The Day: Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
Monday September 17, 2007
Automotive Ennui: Well, I've looked at lots of reports from the Frankfurt Auto Show and, frankly, nothing sets my heart afire. Except the barbecue-flavored potato chips I was munching whilst leafing through AutoWeek. Everything seems boring and looks like it was carved from wax then set in the sun to melt slightly. I think I'm suffering from a bout of Automotive Ennui.
All the concept cars have headlights derived from those 12-way flashlights of the future that The Sharper Image used to hawk in 1986. The Mercedes-Benz F700 concept is muscle-curvy yet weirdly androgynous. Think Michael Jackson on steroids. Come to think of it, Michael and the Merc both have contrived noses.***
||*** I actually saw Michael at a children's clothing boutique last week. They were having a sale and someone had told him that boy's pants were half-off.
The BMW X-6 concept reminds me of a hoonified, jacked-up Chevy Vega coupe with big truck tires that I used to see rollin' down highway 99E just south of Albany, Oregon in the late-80s. Maybe that's where BMW got the idea.
I've said before that it's hard to find an incompetent car today but it's equally as hard to find an exceptional car. Too many vehicles look the same, act the same, feel the same. Blame bumper and crash requirements. And platform sharing. And aerodynamics. And badge engineering. All of these conspire to prevent 'standout' cars from being made.
Does the Lamborghini Reventón look that much better than the Countach introduced 1971 Geneva Motor Show 36 years ago? Not to me. The Reventón is impressive but not drop-dead stunning and never-seen-before radical in the manner of the Countach concept.
I used to love Aston Martins. But today's Aston looks too much like its platform cousin, the Jaguar XK-8. Ferrari? Every red sports car now looks like a Ferrari - and vise-versa. Saabs are now Chevys/Saturns/Opels with weird grilles.
Maybe it's my age. Ken Purdy, a well known auto writer of the 1950s (he wrote about cars for Playboy as well as Car & Driver and authored a definitive book on the grand marques of the classic era, 'Kings Of The Road'), once penned something to the effect that no car made after the 1930s was good-looking. When I first read that, I thought he was nuts. But he was a generation older than me and was simply stating his personal preferences. Now that I'm older, I understand. Purdy wrote that particular opinion when he was in his 50s; in 1933, he was only 20 years old.
I, too, like a lot of the cars from when I was 20 (and younger). The cars shows were more interesting to me in those days, with the wild Detroit dream cars and those exotic one-offs from Italian coachbuilders. In my mind, today's U.S. car shows are lame compared to, say, the spectacular 1955 Detroit show. Look at all the new and wild stuff that was introduced in '55.
Now I'm 64 and see everything differently. What did Ken Purdy think of automobiles at age 64? We'll never know. He blew his brains out before his 60th birthday.
Speaking Of The Frankfurt Show ... Dave Leggett writes about the Jaguar XF: "In the flesh it didn't look quite as good as the pictures. Has Jag overcooked the anti-retro approach - a reaction to what went before - and gone a bit bland? I wasn't getting XK vibes. It could have been a Volvo it even appeared to have a Volvo shoulder line. Hope I'm wrong." If Dave's description is accurate, this Kitty is Dead On Arrival.
Dave liked the Ford Verve. I thought it looked kinda cool in the photos but, sadly, it probably won't make it to the U.S.
Surprising Fact: Buick sells more cars in China - 304,000, than it does in the U.S. - 241,000.
The Quest For The Real Killer Continues: After years of checking out every luxury golf course, sports memorabilia show and high-end hotel, O.J. Simpson has now turned his attention to searching a Las Vegas jail as part of his self-proclaimed mission to find the real murderer of Nicole Brown Simpson.
And ... if you've been watching Fox News, doesn't it seem that legal analyst Bob Massi has Caveman Lawyer hair?
Speaking of celebrity criminal masterminds ...
Separated at Birth: Phil Spector and Edward Scissorhands.
Campaign Ennui: I'm bored with politics, too. Jeez. We still have more 14 months to put up with the same talking points, stump speeches, tag lines, posturing, accusations, haircut stories, etc.
Are you as sick of it as I am? I'm tempted to spend the next year doing nothing but swigging codeine-laced cough syrup and watching Monster Garage reruns while self-tatting flying dragons on my arms using a blue-ink 1962 Bic.
It's time for the candidates to do something different. How about a cage match? Put 'em in wrestling garb and let 'em have at each other. With Hillary in a bathing suit, we'd finally see if she really has baloney legs as has been claimed. And find out whether Fred Thompson has saggy old-man-tits.
Wrestlemania: Political Edition. Bring it on.
Thought For Today: Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
Friday September 14, 2007
The Car That Saved Lincoln: While much has been written (by me and many others) about the current woes of the Lincoln automotive brand, there was a once a time when the marque was in truly grave danger of being discontinued. ... (more>>>)
Too Cool To Be Cool: Early in the week, the weather was very nice. I took the Plymouth out for a ride through the countryside on a sunny Monday.
Coming back from an overnighter in Seattle yesterday, the weather turned; it was overcast and chilly - 52 degrees at 10:00 am. Nevertheless, I spotted a brave soul piloting a red '57 Chevy Bel Air convertible northbound on I-5 near Fife, with top and windows down. Brrrrrr. Saw several other topless cars on Thursday, including a Mercedes and a couple of Miatas.
We got 30.3 mpg in our Avalon on this trip. Sweet.
When Well-Intentioned Fools Intervene: In Bangladesh, people are suffering horribly and dying from arsenic poisoning caused by the consumption of well-water. Theodore Dalrymple writes: "The sad irony is that the problem is the unintended consequence of a campaign in the 1970s and 1980s by international development organizations, including UNICEF, to get villagers to stop drinking dirty surface water."
"When people buy their UNICEF Christmas cards, how many of them know what the organization, and others like it, have wrought in Bangladesh? It isn't even as if such organizations feel any institutional guilt - The Lancet reports that: For such a massive disaster, the response by international aid agencies has been small, especially since researchers estimate that substantial mitigation could be achieved for less than $100 million."
Unfinished Business: Jeremy Clarkson rails against 'Some Assembly Required'. He recently purchased some outdoor lights - only to look inside the box and find that "there were some poor-quality instructions which explained that all you needed to assemble your quality product was fingers like cocktail sticks and six and a half thousand tools that you do not own. It was truly and genuinely extraordinary to find how little had been done at the factory. And this is not a one-off. These days we see exactly the same thing with furniture and all children's toys."
"Of course, I commend any company that can maximize its profits and quench the thirst of its shareholders. This is all excellent and makes the world go round, but implying on the box that the customer is buying a garden heater when in fact he's buying a box of pieces: that's flirting with fraud."
"How long will it be before the box contains nothing but some iron ore, a piece of the Russian gas fields and 6,000 miles of pipeline? How long before Ikea sells you a tree in Finland and a saw?" (permalink)
Geezer Joke: Hospital regulations require a wheel chair for patients being discharged. A nurse found one elderly gentleman already dressed and sitting on the bed with a suitcase at his feet, who insisted he didn't need help to leave the hospital. After a chat about rules being rules, he reluctantly let her wheel him to the elevator. On the way down the nurse asked if his wife was meeting him.
"I don't know," he said. "She's still upstairs in the bathroom changing out of her hospital gown."
Quote Of The Day is from Dan Sparacino: "A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well." (hat tip: Tom McMahon)
Wednesday September 12, 2007
50 Worst Articles Of All Time - Here's One: Dan Neil has written an piece for Time magazine titled 'The 50 Worst Cars Of All Time'. I was surprised that: 1) Time was still around, 2) Neil, who does very nice road tests for the LA Times, wrote stuff for Time (maybe his contract allows him to write for anything with the word 'time' in it) and 3) this Pulitzer-winning scribe would write anything so silly. (hat tip - Mike Lief)
It's easy to write about the worst cars ever. The automotive business is worldwide, diverse and old. Anything so enormous is going to have its share of Bad Ideas: The British Empire and Oliver Cromwell. The Catholic Church and the Spanish Inquisition. The Music Industry and Britney Spears. See what I mean?
The auto industry is ubiquitous; it is such a big tree that there is a lot of low-hanging, rotting fruit to pick. And pick Mr. Neil does. In selecting the Model T Ford for his list, he notes "with its blacksmithed body panels and crude instruments, the Model T was a piece of junk, the Yugo of its day." Oh, pulleeeeze. Holding an ancient machine to Lexus standards set nearly a century in the future is a bit unfair, isn't it? Kinda like comparing a 1910 Baldwin steam locomotive to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Neil acknowledges that "the Model T did everything that the history books say: It put America on wheels, supercharged the nation's economy and transformed the landscape in ways unimagined when the first Tin Lizzy rolled out of the factory." But then declares the idea of a Car for Everyman as very bad: "A century later, the consequences of putting every living soul on gas-powered wheels are piling up, from the air over our cities to the sand under our soldiers' boots."
So ... the Model T fostered the rise of radical Islam? Oh gosh, then let's all just go back to horses and everything will be swell again. Somebody call the Ottoman Empire and tell them it's safe to put their feet back up.
In his book, 'The Good Old Days, They Were Terrible', Otto Bettmann writes of "streets caked with animal waste", noting that there were over three million horses in American cities at the turn of the Century, each producing 20-25 pounds of manure per day. During dry spells, the pounding of hooves refined the manure to dust which blew "from the pavement as a sharp, piercing powder to cover our clothes, ruin our furniture and blow up our nostrils."
Then there were the flies. Disease-carrying flies. And the smell. New York City of the period was described by a visitor as a "nasal disaster."
Bettmann notes that the 15,000 horses of Rochester, N.Y. produced enough manure in 1900 to cover an acre of ground with a layer 175 feet high. This steadily increasing production caused more pessimistic observers of the period to predict that American cities would disappear like Pompeii - but not under ashes.
In 1999, I wrote a piece for a car club publication, titled 'Cars of the Century' (an updated version is posted here), choosing the ten most "significant cars of the last century ... a list of ten cars which had the most profound impact - on the auto industry and society." The first car on the list was the Model T Ford: "Before the T, cars were mere playthings for the rich. Henry's T didn't just put America on wheels, it put the world on wheels."
And put the brakes on the proliferation of horsecrap. The world is much better for it, even though, unfortunately, Dan Neil has just added some to the pile. (permalink)
What Recession? Donald L. Luskin writes, "Just came back from dinner and a movie at the mall. In 20 years here in Silicon Valley, in busts and in booms, I've never seen it more crowded. Looked for a parking spot for 15 minutes (must be all those subprime borrowers thrown out of their homes, living in their cars in the lot). Had to shove my way to the restaurant through thick throngs (all 8,000 net payroll job-losers from August must have been killing time milling around and spending their unemployment checks)."
Same around here. Sure, it's a lousy time to be selling a home and new residential construction has dropped off by 50%. On the other hand, we are in the finishing-up stages of remodeling our master bath. It is behind schedule because our contractor and his subs have more work than they can handle. The good guys are very busy.
It's the dude who was flipping burgers six months ago and now has his own drywall-hanging business who's in trouble. And is probably behind on his house payment.
Conspiracy Theory: Mark Steyn writes that, according to a recent poll, "35 percent of Democrats believe that Bush knew about 9/11 in advance. Did Rumsfeld also know? Almost certainly. That's why he went to his office as normal that today, because he knew in advance that the plane would slice through the Pentagon but come to a halt on the far side of the photocopier. That's how well-planned it was, unlike Iraq."
I'm sure those 35% are far-left Democrats. Speaking of 'far-left', Keith Olbermann says Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda: "Al Qaeda really hurt us, but not as much as Rupert Murdoch has hurt us, particularly in the case of Fox News. Fox News is worse than Al Qaeda - worse for our society. It's as dangerous as the Ku Klux Klan ever was."
M-kay, Keith. If you say so, loser.
Stylish, Tasteful Execution: Greg Gutfeld writes: "Sadaam (Hussein) was hanged on December 30, 2006, despite his wish to be shot, (which would be more dignified, but messier to clean up, especially when you don't have a Swiffer)."
He continues: "We live in a country where losing a war is preferable to doing anything distasteful. I've thought about the idea of the "classy" execution, and came up with some options. My initial one is to actually have a New York Times editor read this morning's paper to the inmate, until the inmate pleads for his own death. I also thought a live concert featuring Natalie Merchant, followed by a lecture from Sean Penn, might work."
Alaska Accident: The day after her husband disappeared in a kayaking accident, an Anchorage woman answered her door to find two grim-faced Alaska State Troopers. "We're sorry, Mrs. Wilkens, but we have some information about your husband," said one trooper. "Tell me! Did you find him?" she shouted. The troopers looked at each other.
One said, "We have some bad news, some good news, and some really great news. Which do you want first?"
Fearing the worst, an ashen Mrs. Wilkens said, "I guess you'd better give me the bad news first." The trooper said, "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, ma'am, but this morning we found his body in 200 feet of water in Kachemak Bay."
"Omigod!" exclaimed Mrs. Wilkens. Swallowing hard, she asked, "Um ... what's your good news?"
The trooper continued, "When we hauled him up, he had a dozen 25-lb king crabs and 6 good-size Dungeness crabs clinging to him." Stunned and tearful, Mrs. Wilkens demanded, "If you call that good news, what could possibly be the great news?"
The trooper said, "We're going to pull him up again tomorrow morning."
HillaryCare: In a statement issued today Hillary Clinton mocked John Edwards' statement regarding waiting 20 years to see the doctor: "Ha ... Twenty years? My health care plan calls for five minutes in the middle of the night. A simple house call by state doctors and a knock on the door at 3:00 am when you're given five minutes to pack one suitcase before you are taken by health care professionals to the nearest hospital if the state deems you unhealthy and not fit."
"Mammograms? Hell no, euthanasia. Leave it to the professionals to decide whether you are healthy or not. Simple diagnostic tests, like if you're able to hold a shovel, will determine your general heath."
God Bless Science: Just two years after unveiling the talking remote-controlled meat thermometer and the telescope with an mp4 player, scientists at Brookstone, Inc., reported Tuesday that the towel alarm clock, which even the most optimistic upscale-gadgetry experts believed could not be available until at least the 22nd Century, is a mere decade away from becoming a reality.
Sources from Brookstone Labs, the top-secret, 1,200-acre high-tech gift-development facility perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of the video toothbrush, said that a viable towel alarm clock could be sold to consumers as early as 2017 thanks to recent advances in ferromagnetism, piezoelectric actuators and cotton.
"This device will forever change the way we live," said Bryan Davies, Brookstone's executive director of research. "No longer will people have to lug their alarm clock from the bedroom to the shower every morning."
"The days of not having an alarm clock on your towel will soon be over," Davies added.
This accelerated effort to complete the towel alarm clock has forced Brookstone to put several other inventions on the back burner, including the self-serving pie tin, the motorized travel pillow, and the digital voice recorder hammock.
Thought For Today: You can't take it with you; that's why hearses don't have luggage racks.
Monday September 10, 2007
My Latest Great Idea ... but six years too late. The people who make Silly Putty should have purchased a fleet of Honda Insights for their sales staff and painted the cars the color of the SP egg.
Get The Lead Out: Nissan is recalling 87,000 mugs that were given away to Japanese car shoppers as a promotion. A customer reportedly became ill after drinking from one; tests showed that the cup's lead content exceeded the permissible levels by 30%. The mugs were made in China, of course.
What Lawsuits Hath Wrought: Ralph R. Reiland relates this tale: "Heading back from the Jersey Shore for the start of another school year, we stopped at Sea Isle's only service station for gas."
"With a seven-hour trip ahead of us, I asked the station's attendant (Jersey banned self-service gas pumping in 1949, so every station has an attendant) to check the oil. The station wasn't busy and he was just standing around, waiting for the gas pump to automatically click off at sixty dollars or so."
"I can't," he said, referring to the oil check. "Some lady came in here in a junker and broke down on the way home and sued us for $10,000," he explained. "We put two quarts of oil in her car. Her car was worth $1,500 - tops. Her lawyer said it was our fault she broke down because we were the last ones to look at her car."
He continued the story as I popped my hood and got out of the car to check my own oil. "She won. I don't know how much - if it was the whole $10,000 or not. But the boss says we're not in the business of checking oil anymore."
This country is being choked by nonsensical legal actions. I suspect that this particular lawsuit was taken by an attorney working on a contingency basis. When you place a custom order for drapes, you have to put down a 50% deposit. Such a practice would reduce silly lawsuits in the same way that the curtain deposit prevents frivolous drape orders.
The law business should be run like the drapery business. Then, it would be 'curtains' for the contingency crowd.
Workshop Woes: Labor Day is over and the seminar/conference/workshop/meeting season is in full swing.
In his blog posting on Fearless Security, Glenn Kramer compares two conferences, calling the organized one Wally and the hapless one The Beaver. "Take registration. Tony and I walked up and found we weren't on the press list. The DefCon (Wally) guy looked at our Black Hat (The Beaver) stuff, wrote us onto the list and gave us our badges, just like that. It took us an hour to register at the Black Hat machine, with its 15 stations and dozens of registration elves."
One of the speakers at The Beaver conference "was told the panel started at, first 11:30, then Noon. Wrong, it was actually 11:00, so everyone scrambled to locate the panel members and they arrived late ..."
I'm always amazed that so many organizations put their worst foot forward when they hold conventions/meetings by screwing up registrations, bad conference scheduling, etc. Then they wonder why non-renewals are so high.
In general, workshops run by nonprofit organizations are the worst. Registration is often handled by a frustrated-but-earnest church lady-type wearing a denim jumper, wool socks, Birkenstocks and eyeglasses from 1972. The coffee is "still being made", the danish are stale and the seating is church-basement torturous. The operative phrase for any registrar errors seems to be 'Smile but distrust'. No one knows how to operate PowerPoint and, eventually, one of the paying attendees volunteers to assist. (I guess that's why they call it a WORKshop.)
Except for the seminars I help run for SCORE. Even though our SCORE chapter has nonprofit status, we think like a business and operate our events accordingly. Our local chapter is very entrepreneurial. Seminars feature comfy chairs, good coffee and snacks, chilled water and outstanding presentations by ten seasoned speakers. They are held in the boardroom of a local financial institution. Everything happens on-time and my PowerPoints are easily readable from the back of the room.
Our operative word is 'professional'. We seek, collate and track feedback from every meeting. And use these data to make adjustments/improvements to our offerings - continuously. Our attendees now give us a median grade of 'A'. 97% say our seminars are worth the investment in time and dollars.
Our next Business Success Seminar begins Tuesday September 18th.
Bearly Edible: Animal welfare activists bared almost all in a protest at the bearskin ceremonial hats worn by Buckingham Palace Guards. Wearing little more than fake bearskin caps and Union flags painted on their backsides, 21 members of PETA performed a "21-bum salute" at Tower Bridge in London.
The marchers held a banner that read 'Bare Skin, Not Bear Skins'.
It is a well-known fact that bears prefer to eat naked protesters, especially PETA members. The Bear Community refers to such entrées as Free-Range Hippies.
But You Can Sell Those CDs On eBay: Greg Gutfeld on switch hitters: "Bisexuals are only bisexuals until they realize they've got to get their act together. When a woman does, she reverts to a member of the opposite sex, as seen with Angelina Jolie and Anne Heche. And all that's left are the dumb tattoos and kd lang CDs - and who wants that?"
Poor kd - she has such a sweet, sultry voice but looks like a bad cross between young, thin Howdy Doody and old, fat Elvis. She could use a man. And a Mary Kay consultant.
Speaking of appearance ...
Bin Laden Video: Damn. I hate to say this but Osama looks healthier than Fred Thompson.
But ... style guru The Manolo now calls him 'Osama bin Metrosexual': "With the freshly dyed beard, it is obvious that here is yet another sorry example of the aging man who has resorted to the Grecian Formula SPF50 in order to stave off the ravages of time; the man for whom the grey beard is not the mark of honor and of the life well lived, but of the irretrievable loss of youth."
"What you need now, Osama, is the complete makeover, something that will render you more acceptable to the majority of society. If you send the Manolo your current address, the Manolo can have some friends deliver to you the special 1,000-pound, laser-guided makeover package."
Best Quote ... on Bin Laden comes from James Robbins: "It really must gall him that President Bush can fly into al-Anbar Province in Iraq, the former al Qaeda stronghold, while the only thing Osama can fly into is a rage."
OBL On MSNBC? Greg Gutfeld writes: "So you've seen the latest message from our favorite goat-toucher Osama bin Laden. In it, he criticizes Americans for reelecting, instead of punishing, Bush, as well as harping on Democrats for not securing a retreat from Iraq. He also mentions global warming and praises Noam Chomsky, the patron saint of the left."
"It was at this point, I thought I was listening to Keith Olbermann. That's when it dawned on me. Bin Laden isn't just a terrorist. He's worse. A liberal!"
"So, when one political party shares a war-time agenda with the guy who's trying to end your civilization, isn't it time to stop renewing Bill Maher's contract? I mean, if Osama wrote these sentiments on a job application, he could land a spot on The View."
I dunno about the Olbermann thing. Osama doesn't quite have the smarmy smirk down yet.
Why Not? Ragin' Dave has a great idea: "In order for me to continue in my military career, I have to submit to random drug tests. ... I pay taxes. And my taxes go to welfare recipients and other people who exist solely to suck off the government tit."
"So if I have to take a drug test to make money and pay taxes, why shouldn't those freeloaders have to take a drug test in order to take my tax dollars?"
Quote Of The Day is from Comic Book Guy (The Simpsons): "Oh, your powers of deduction are exceptional. I simply can't allow you to waste them here when there are so many crimes going unsolved at this very moment.
Go! Go for the good of the city!"
Friday September 7, 2007
Happy Fiftieth: It has been fifty years since the debut of the Edsel. The grand unveiling was September 4, 1957, designated as "E-Day" by Ford Motor Company.
In commemoration of this event, Peter Carlson of the Washington Post penned a hit job titled: 'Edsel: The flop heard 'round the world'.
The article regurgitates the conventional wisdom that the Edsel was the Mother Of All Failures: the design was silly, the public hated it, Ford's management was a gang of hapless fools, etc.
I beg to differ ... (more >>>)
Automotive Inside Baseball: Jim Press is leaving Toyota and joining Chrysler as Vice Chairman and President, augmenting/replacing Tom Lasorda. Press joins Chrysler after 37 years with Toyota, where he most recently served as the first non-Japanese President of Toyota Motor North America Inc., responsible for sales, engineering and the company's 15 manufacturing plants with 41,000 employees in North America. Sixty year-old Press was also the first non-Japanese executive selected to the Board of Directors of Toyota Motor Corporation.
Why leave the penthouse to live in the outhouse? Well, Chrysler probably backed a dump truck full of money at his house and dropped it on his front lawn. A figure of $500 million has been rumored. Wow!
I'm surprised that Toyota didn't have Press wrapped up in a non-compete. Last month, Chrysler named Lexus marketing vice president Deborah Wahl Meyer as its chief marketing officer.
Definition of The Day is from Francis W. Porretto at Eternity Road. 'Civil servant': Government employee; neither civil nor servile.
Geezer Joke: Two elderly men were sitting on a bench. One turns to the other and says: "Slim, I'm 83 years old now and I'm just full of aches and pains. I know you're about my age. How do you feel?" Slim replies, "I feel just like a newborn baby." "Really!? Like a new born baby!?"
"Yep. No hair, no teeth, and I think I just wet my pants."
Bad Pun Of The Day: A cargo ship full of blue paint hit a larger cargo ship full of red paint. The entire crew was reportedly marooned. (hat tip - Joe Sherlock III)
Thursday September 6, 2007
Roadside Assistants: A blonde's car got a flat tire on the Interstate, so she eased it over onto the shoulder of the road. She stepped out of the car, opened the trunk, removed two cardboard men, unfolded them and stood them at the rear of the vehicle facing oncoming traffic. The lifelike cardboard men were in trench coats, exposing their nude bodies to approaching drivers.
Not surprisingly, traffic quickly became snarled. In short order, a police car arrived. The policeman, clearly enraged, approached the blonde yelling, "What is going on here?"
"My car broke down, Officer," she said calmly.
"Well, what the hell are these obscene cardboard pictures doing here?" asked the cop.
"Helllllooooo. Those are my emergency flashers!"
Second Car Joke Of The Day is from John Pico, a dealership consultant in Dallas: Q: What's the difference between Ford's Mercury franchise and the Titanic? A: The Titanic had a band. (hat tip - Robert Farago)
Of course, Mercury is The Joke. The last time I lusted after a Mercury was when the Cougar debuted forty years ago. Mercury never had much of an identity anyway ... other than a gussied-up Ford. In the mid-1960s, when Ford began to offer an ultra-gussied up model, the Galaxie 500XL Limited, Mercury lost its raison d'être.
I'm surprised it's still around. Sales for Mercury last year totaled 180,848 units in the U.S. - less than eight vehicles per month per franchise. Sales were down over 20% last month; only 12,296 Mercs were sold in August. That's about six-and-one-half vehicles per dealer.
August Sales Round-Up: Ford Motor Co.'s sales dropped by 14% (10th straight month of decline). Chrysler's U.S. sales fell 6%. Toyota dropped by almost 3% - its second monthly decrease. Talking heads have touted their Previously Predicted Decline in the U.S. auto market due "rising mortgage payments and turmoil in the financial markets."
Yeah, but .... how do they explain Nissan's 6.3 percent gain? Or Honda's 7% increase? And that's not all - BMW was up a whopping 18+%; Land Rover sales jumped over 32%. Lexus and Mercedes were up, too. Lincoln was up but mostly due to SUVs; its passenger car sales were down a whopping 38%. (Only 855 Town Cars were sold in August. If my memory serves me correctly, Lincoln used to move 5-6,000 of these barges every month in the 'late '80s and early '90s. No wonder the Lincoln brand is dying. I guess L-M dealers must be stayin' alive by selling used cars these days.)
Even General Motors had a 6% sales increase. Admittedly, GM went heavy on incentives, especially on pick-em-up trucks, but up is up.
In all fairness, I should mention that Ford's dramatic drop was partly because its sales to rental companies dropped by 44%. Who knows - maybe this lower sales/better profits strategy will work.
Rental Cars Are Quite Different Than Press Cars, Old Chap. Jeremy Clarkson rented a vacation van, with an anemic 170 hp engine coupled to an old-tech 4-speed tranny: "I was driving through Canada ... in a Dodge Grand Caravan (rented) from a company called Thrifty. As recipes go, this is right up there with a plate of pork sausages and strawberry ice cream served in a puddle of tepid Greek urine." It had "a nasty scrape along its flanks and a steering wheel that was not on straight. I think. It's hard to be sure, because where I pointed it seemed to have little or no bearing on my direction of travel. Small wonder that the Caravan's sister car, the Chrysler Grand Voyager, did so badly in the Euro NCAP safety tests."
"Happily, however, if you do crash you won't be going very fast. I don't want to be stupid and say it was powered by something you might find in a cement mixer, but that's how it felt. Really. It had no power at all, and if you dared to floor it to, say, get up a small hill, the gearbox would swap cogs with a force capable of beheading everyone inside."
Welcome to the everyday world the rest of us experience, Jeremy.
The China Way: In the face of all the product recalls, lead paint on kiddie things, poisoned dog food and other assorted news about the Execrable Crap produced by our 'friends', the Chinese, comes this report from a good buddy of mine who lives in Japan. "A Japanese camera crew secretly shot footage of the method used in China to dry-out tea leaves: they run a truck over the tea leaves back and forth ... it not only crushes the leaves but expedites the drying time, i.e. - the fumes from the exhaust pipe will dry them out!! Then it's packaged and sent off for export."
Defending Brian: U.S. Representative Brian Baird (D-WA) is taking a lot of heat because, after visiting Iraq and talking with soldiers of all ranks, he decided to oppose a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq. Baird said he thinks that most of the country agrees with him. "I have to believe that there is a quiet majority of people out there who think the war has been a terrible mistake but they sure don't want to see us lose," he has said.
In May, Brian supported a bill that would have required troop levels to start falling by Oct. 1. But his perspective changed after a visit to Iraq in early August. "One of the colonels over there said, 'Sir, we're going to need time,'" he recalled. "And I said, 'I'm going to try and get you some.'"
Baird voted in 2002 against the use of military force. He still feels that the invasion should never have happened but, now that we're there, we must get the job done as best we can: "... once we're on the ground, we have an obligation."
Meanwhile, the liberal political action group MoveOn.org is running ads on area cable TV calling attention to Baird's "decision to go against the views of his constituents."
Brian Baird is my U.S. congressman. I have not voted for him in the past because I did not agree with many of his positions. Nevertheless, in this instance, he embodies exactly what we want a Congressional representative to do. Gather the facts and vote as an informed solon. If circumstances change, don't be afraid to change your mind. And your position.
Opposing his fellow Democrats and having to face the wrath left-wing groups requires courage, as he puts his political future in jeopardy in order to support a principled position. Last week, he faced a hostile crowd of over 550 people (many were, I bet, wacko hippies who recumbent-bicycled in from Portland, OR ... not even his state ... to harass him) at a town hall meeting in Vancouver, WA. Baird said, "I think I have a responsibility to say where I stand."
This is 'Mr. Smith Goes To Washington: 2007'. Brian has my admiration and respect. He may even get my vote next time.
Inexplicable Fact: Most women with buck teeth and/or serious overbites are liberals. There's a reason that left-leaning Oregon is known as The Beaver State.
A Nation Of Wusses: An elementary school in Colorado Springs has banned tag on its playground after some children complained they were harassed or chased against their will. "It causes a lot of conflict on the playground," said Cindy Fesgen, assistant principal of the Discovery Canyon Campus school. Running games are still allowed as long as students don't chase each other, she said.
Guess they don't allow Buck-Buck or Slaughterball either.
No Morphing, No Evolution - It Just Suddenly Changed. Without warning, The History Channel seems to have become The Ice Trucker Channel. (When it finally goes away, will its demise be blamed on Global Warming?)
Headline Of The Week ... is from Unconfirmed Sources: 'Michael Vick to Star in Remake of Old Yeller'.
Quote Of The Day is from Albert Einstein: "To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate made me an authority myself."
Tuesday September 4, 2007
Tight Quarters: An Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger jet, scraped a wing tip on a building at Bangkok's international airport on Saturday as the plane prepared for a demonstration flight.
I understand completely. I once took out a driveway light while piloting a 1979 Lincoln Town Car. Scraped it with the bumper, I did. Whacked it good.
Five Year-Old Designated Driver: The pajama-clad 5-year-old boy told a sheriff's deputy that he had been driving but was "having a hard time because I can't reach the pedals." The mother, Holly L. Schnobrich, 24, of Lafayette, Indiana was charged with two counts of felony neglect and public intoxication. The 5-year-old and a 3-year-old son also in the vehicle were taken by the Department of Child Services. Schnobrich has been in jail since her arrest.
Spamalot: Last week, we saw the comedic musical "lovingly ripped off" from the film 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' (1975). Like the film, it is an irreverent parody of the legend of King Arthur but it differs in several ways, particularly its parodies of Broadway theater. Spamalot has won three Tony Awards, including the Award for Best Musical of the 200405 season.
I saw 'Holy Grail' when it first debuted. In those days, it took months or years before a new release would make it to the 'burbs, so we traveled from Mt. Laurel, NJ to a downtown Philadelphia movie theater for the viewing. It was worth the trip; I laughed myself sick.
The musical did not disappoint. It featured many of the characters from the film, including the pair of sentries debating the weight-carrying capacity of swallows, the taunting French castle guards (now 50% more lewd!), the Knights Who Say "Ni" and the Black Knight ("Tis but a scratch ... just a flesh wound.").
Spamalot made many references to the film (set in 932 AD) and other material in the Python archives, including a line from 'The Lumberjack Song', a rendition of the song 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' (from the blasphemous 'Life of Brian' film) and the 'Fisch Schlapping Song' adapted from the Fish-Slapping Dance sketch. And the voice of John Cleese as an annoyed, exasperated God.
New songs included 'You Won't Succeed On Broadway Without Jews' and 'The Song That Goes Like This', a rip on Andrew Lloyd Webber-style power ballads. And then there were the Laker Girls. Sweet.
The traveling company always makes a reference or two about the city where it's playing. In our case, Tonya Harding's name was uttered. And I learned (relearned) a good Civics Lesson: "Strange women lyin' in ponds distributin' swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony."
In summary, I had a wonderful time and laughed myself sick ... again. But I'm not dead yet. Actually, I'm getting better. I think I'll go for a walk. I feel happy. I feel happy. I may be ready to dance ... (permalink)
Restaurant Review: Near the theater was Carafe Parisian Bistro. This French-style bistro offers casually sophisticated dining in a lively setting with a tin ceiling, cafe tables, art-deco lamps, two glass walls and a large mirror on one wall.
The Bistro has good parentage; it is owned and operated by husband and wife Pascal Sauton & Julie Hunter. Pascal was formerly executive chef at the RiverPlace Hotel, where we had many enjoyable meals at the now-defunct Esplanade. Julie brings restaurant managerial experience as well.
Try one of the French wines (we had Joseph Roty Rosé - dry but flavorful) and the hangar steak and fries - excellent! But skip the desserts which are unexceptional.
It's a touch of Paris in downtown Portland. Très Bon! (permalink)
The Other Kind Of Profiling: An NRO reader notes that Larry Craig, the toilet-stall-cruising, soon-to-be former Senator from Idaho, was "looking through the cracks in the stalls, moving his hands oddly and tapping his foot in the airport bathroom and was arrested because such behavior fits the profile of someone looking to engage in bathroom sex."
The reader asks, "Isn't there actually a serious policy question here about why we're willing to let law enforcement use profiling to apprehend and prevent creeps from getting it on in the airport bathroom but not willing to let law enforcement use profiling to apprehend and prevent terrorists from getting on an airplane?"
Mark Steyn adds, "If Senator Craig had gone into the stall, rolled out his prayer mat, yelled "Allahu Akbar!" and been observed attempting to weaponize the ballcock, the undercover cop would have shrugged, "Do I really want to get stuck with another four-week stint in Sensitivity Training hell?" and gone about his business."
Nevertheless, the whole toilet stall thing is too creepy. Next time I have to go Number Two at the airport, I'm using the Ladies Room.
Global Warming Will Be Conquered! Irwin Chusid opines: "Global warming is expected to subside with the inauguration of the next Democrat president. Watch the climate undergo a miraculously speedy recovery! Page one above the fold!"
"That goes for Iraq, New Orleans, subprime defaults, Americans without health insurance, and every other "disaster" attributable to President Chimpy W. Hitler. When a Dem moves into the White House, news headlines and network anchors are suddenly going to brim with good news on a daily basis."
"Three years on, the employment rate might even "sink" to a "record low" 6.8%."
Leona Helmsley Reincarnated? Drudge Headline: 'Six Foot Shark Sighted Off Queens'.
Question Of The Day: What happens if you get scared half to death, twice?